On Baffin Island in the Fragile Canadian Arctic, an Iron Ore Mine Spews Black Carbon

On Baffin Island in the Fragile Canadian Arctic, an Iron Ore Mine Spews Black Carbon

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: April 2, 2020 SNIP: Even 150 miles away from the Mary River iron mine, Peter Ivalu can’t seem to escape its presence. He’s heard rumors of white foxes turning pink, and caribou, walrus and narwhal disappearing from traditional Inuit hunting grounds. Then last year, he noticed something bizarre at his family campground just south of Igloolik, a hamlet in the far northern Canadian province of Nunavut, where he lives. It was iron dust from the Mary River mine, Ivalu said. “That dust is now everywhere.” Operating since 2015, the mine produces up to 6 million metric tons of iron ore each year that then gets shipped from the frozen coasts of Canada’s Baffin Island, almost 1,400 miles north of Montreal, to parts of Europe and Asia. For a decade, Ivalu and other Inuit community members in the region have fought the mine’s development, worried about what excavating and shipping millions of tons of iron ore each year might do to one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems. Already, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, melting sea ice at alarming rates, causing mass die-offs of fish and birds and altering wildlife migration habits. Now, Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, which owns the mine, wants to expand the operation by doubling its output to 12 million metric tons a year, and, starting in 2025, more than doubling that again to 30 million metric tons. That means two to four times as many ships carrying the ore through the icy waters, as well as the construction of a new rail line...
Breathing Seattle’s air right now is like smoking 7 cigarettes. Blame wildfires.

Breathing Seattle’s air right now is like smoking 7 cigarettes. Blame wildfires.

SOURCE: Vox DATE: August 22, 2018 SNIP: Ash and smoke are choking Seattle’s air for the second week in a row, as wildfires smolder in the Cascades and in British Columbia. The air quality in Seattle this week has been worse than in Beijing, one of the world’s most notoriously polluted cities. As of Wednesday morning, the Air Quality Index in Seattle was at 190, a rating classified as “unhealthy.” In parts of the city, the index rose as high as 220, which is “very unhealthy.” Other parts of Puget Sound, like Port Angeles, Washington — 80 miles from Seattle — saw the AQI rise to 205 this week. To put it in perspective, an AQI of 150 is roughly equal to smoking seven cigarettes in a day. People breathing air this unhealthy should avoid being outside and exerting themselves, particularly people with heart and lung problems, the elderly, and children. Fires are a major source of air pollution, in rural and urban areas. Fires from crop burning in India last year helped make Delhi the most polluted city on earth. Though wildfires throw off particles of all shapes and sizes, the biggest health dangers come from the smallest ones, 2.5 microns or less in diameter. Known as PM2.5, these particles penetrate deep into the airways, causing inflammation, asthma attacks, and cancer. In Seattle, the concentrations on PM2.5 reached 157 milligrams per cubic meter. “When pollution is very high, over 37 [micrograms per cubic meter], we start to see health consequences,” Jia Coco Liu, a postdoctoral researcher studying air quality at Johns Hopkins University...
What Is Eating Away at the Greenland Ice Sheet?

What Is Eating Away at the Greenland Ice Sheet?

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: April 19, 2018 SNIP: [T]emperatures are rising in the Arctic at about twice the global average. That causes melting around the edges of the ice sheet each year and reaches across more of the surface during summer heat waves. In areas near the edge of the ice sheet, things get even more interesting: a carpet of microbes and algae mixed with dust and soot, a short-lived climate pollutant, is darkening the ice sheet, absorbing the sun’s rays and accelerating the melting of the ice. New research shows this dark zone is growing. The new research, published in the journal Nature Communications, describes a geological feedback loop on the ice that’s expanding the dark zone: Warming melts the western edge of the ice sheet, releasing mineral dust from rock crushed by the ice sheet thousands of years ago. That dust blows to the surface of the ice, nurturing the microbes and algae living there. Those organisms produce colored pigments as sunscreen, which contribute to the darkening of the surface, reducing reflectivity and increasing melting. “Just the little bit of extra heat from a tiny soot particle can start transforming feathery and highly reflective snow crystals into darker, rounded grains that absorb more heat,” said climate researcher Jason...
Pakistan’s glaciers face new threat: Highway’s black carbon

Pakistan’s glaciers face new threat: Highway’s black carbon

SOURCE: Reuters DATE: November 3, 2017 SNIP: The Karakoram Highway has been around since 1982, but the Chinese-funded upgrade – which opened in 2015 – has turned a once treacherous track into a 15-foot-wide paved road. A series of tunnels, cut through the mountains, have reduced the driving time to the Khunjerab Pass from Gilgit, the capital of Gilgit-Balistan region, from eight hours to four hours. Now trucks are pouring over the border, laden with Chinese goods and equipment headed to Sost, the first border town on the Pakistani side, and then further down the 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) highway toward the port of Gwadar. The highway upgrade, part of the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor, “has two impacts – one is positive and the other negative,” said Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, the author of Pakistan’s national climate change policy. “It will bring in much-needed infrastructure. But the carbon emissions and the soot going into the atmosphere will definitely increase – and our mountain glaciers will melt. We need to do a comprehensive study on the impacts and then develop a strategy,” he said. [D]ata gathered over the last 50 years shows that all but around 120 of the glaciers are showing signs of melting, meteorological officials said. Warming temperatures are to blame for much of the melting but so-called “black carbon” – black soot released from diesel vehicle exhaust, factories, open fires and cookstoves – also is to blame, experts say. The highway upgrade is just part a huge Chinese investment push into infrastructure in Pakistan – including a series of new coal-fired power plants – under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor...